The Four Shires Stone: A Landmark of Historical Significance

Our name takes inspiration from a local landmark that has captured the fascination of many over its long history, including J. R. R. Tolkien, author of The Lord of the Rings.

Around a mile and a half from the Cotswold town of Moreton-in-Marsh stands the Four Shires Stone. The distinctive 15 feet tall monument marks the ancient boundary between the counties of Warwickshire, Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire and Worcestershire. The pillar is constructed from white oolitic limestone, the beautiful honey-coloured stone that is characteristic of the Cotswolds, suggesting it was likely sourced from a local quarry.

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The origins of the stone

Historians believe the current structure (which has been recently restored) dates back to the 1700s and replaced an earlier marker stone which originated in Middle Ages when Blockley and Evenlode belonged to Worcestershire. In 1931 the government re-organised the county boundaries and absorbed the afore-mentioned parishes (among others) into Gloucestershire, meaning just three counties now border the stone.

Though the exact construction year is still subject to speculation, those studying the Four Shires Stone are confident that an original waymarker was erected sometime between 1650 and 1660 during the tumultuous years of the English Civil War. This earlier marker stone is believed to be illustrated in Thomas Habington’s 1660 Survey of Worcestershire, in which he mentions “the stone which toucheth four sheeres, a thing rarely scene”. 

It is also documented in the 1779 book A New History of Gloucester by Cirencester historian Samuel Rudder who described a handsome pedestal about 12 ft high with a dial on the top and an inscription to inform travellers. This description matches the pillar that exists today, confirming that it was built before 1779.


According to local legends, the pillar was used as a place where gangs used to meet for prize fights. The convenient position meant that anyone breaking the law could easily flee across county borders and avoid prosecution. It is also believed to have been a general meeting place for travellers based on the various old graffiti that has been carved into the stones. Whilst it’s hard to date much of the graffiti, several dates from the mid-19th century can be clearly read.

Like many historical landmarks, the Four Shires Stone has inspired numerous legends and folklore. One tale suggests that the stone possesses mystical powers, granting good fortune to those who touch it. Others claim that the pillar was a secret meeting place for witches and that rituals were conducted during the dead of night. Although these stories are more imaginative than factual, they add a touch of enchantment and intrigue to the pillar’s mystique!


The Four Shires Stone has gained popularity in recent years due to its connection with British author J. R. R. Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings. It’s strongly believed that J. R. R. Tolkien took inspiration from the Four Shires Stone as he regularly traveled through the area during his time at Oxford University when he came to Moreton to meet his brother. Here are a few points that make a compelling case:

1. The hobbits lived in The Shire, a rural area that was divided into three smaller shires named Westfarthing, Southfarthing and Eastfarthing, which met at a monument called the ‘Three Farthing Stone’.

2. It’s thought that the inspiration behind The Prancing Pony at Bree (the inn where the hobbits visit whilst journeying to Mordor) was a pub in Moreton-in-Marsh called The Bell Inn, a favourite of Tolkien and his brother.

3. Many people have pointed out similarities between various spots in and around the counties surrounding the Four Shires Stone with places in Tolkien’s Middle Earth. 

If you’re interested in visiting the stone and the beautiful surrounding areas, we would love the chance to say hello and learn about your business whilst you’re here.